28 February, 2002

No Jaune vintage from 2007

The tasting team at the Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin in Reims will not create a vintage champagne from 2007.

"The grapeharvest was good, but not exceptional enough for us," according to the VCP-chef de cave, Jacques Peters, in the local paper l'Union.

Since late October he and his team of tasters have tried 600 base wines. 24 each day during five weeks. Then it has been decided, which wines will be orientated towards the topseller of the house, the Carte Jaune, which will be destined for the prestige champagne La Grande Dame, and finally which wines will be matured to serve as reserve wines.

I noted while reading - without any kind of comparison - that these tasting seances last one and a half hours, and that the master assesses this part of his work as a very tiresome one. Because of the concentration needed, and because the alcohol tires you out, even you don't swallow.

Personally I'm rather unexperienced with tasting, but I had the same thoughts, as I participated in two tastings of the base wines of our cooperative in January. (The first and The second).

The ability to identify and since store it in your personal, mental library, from where you can retrieve it when needed, can be trained of course. But some of us have bigger talents from nature than others. These big talents may create perfumes. Or champagnes. I find it very impressive, that some people are actually able to test 600 wines, and orientate them in a certain direction after just one or two samples. Okay, this is also why they are a team after all. But still. I guess you develop a really good technique as you take notes.

27 February, 2002

Writing on the wall at Pommery's

The president of Mongolia has just ended a state visit in France, and what is more natural than to put a visit at one of the big champagne houses in Reims in the official program? Since this was the personal wish of president Nambaryn Enkhbayar.

A visit of this kind helps polish the guilded frames around the name and notion of champagne. And as we all may know a regular maintenance costs a lot less than total renovation, so visits of this calibre are important. Even they probably still drink a lot more butter tea than champagne in the land of the big steppes. Whatever.

But what do you choose for a president then?

Cuvée Louise from Pommery
Since Pommery housed the event, it was the prestige cuvée of this houses, the cuvée Louise 1998, that was poured into the glasses.

Louise is named after the grande dame of this house. A lady, who in the late 19th century became a very far-seeing manager of Pommery. Cuvée Louise is only made in the best years, latest in 1998, and even after spending some years in the caves, its technical specifications has still not made it into the website of Pommmery. The latest is the1995-version.

But the wine merchants on the net write a bit about cuvée Louise 1998:

Tastings.com puts cuvée Louise in the category of "exceptional", and note its long aftertaste,

Wineandco describes cuvée Louise as fullbodied and in a perfect balance and harmony.

1855.com gives three hearts out of five obtainable.

And even the cuvée Loise is normally not mentioned next to those of Krug, Salon, Bollinger and Roederer, the chef de cave is known and acknowledged for his creativity.

Writing on the wall
The man in charge of the wines of Pommery is called Thierry Gasco. In 1999 he invented POP, that on top of being a champagne was also a new idea about who, how and when you buy and drink champagne. The new minibottle was marketed to be bought by a young club audience and drunk with a straw and not in the classic flute, used by the traditional target group of champagne: A more or less global upper middle class.

The president of Mongolia returned to Paris after having written the name of his capital on the wall of Pommery, says our regional paper, l'Union. It also mentions that the president asked many and precise questions about how you make the champagne, the quality of grapes and vintages

The writing on the wall is a tradition, that Louise Pommery herself introduced. She simply began to write the names of places, she visited, on the walls of her cellars.

You could claim that it is not quite the same. She never visited Mongolia, I guess.

But still, this kind of events help to feed the big story of champagne. It represents a new piece of information for the guided tours at Pommery, and with a bit of luck, His Excellency may even now and then talk about the day where he wrote the name of his capital on a wall in a cave in the city of Reims. It is called Ulan-Bator by the way.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

25 February, 2002

UNESCO: Mobilizing the backers

Champagne still dreams sweet UNESCO-dreams. The business, namely the main professional organisation CIVC, continues the work of being admitted into the list of world heritage, where several other vine areas of the world already can be found.

The dossier, that is meant to qualify Champagne, has been collected during these last couple of years. I couldn't help applying as a trainee, even I am neither geographer nor historian, and at the time also happened to be seven months pregant and didn't speak that much of French. The anwer was not yes, not no, and I got to busy to be back in touch anyway.

Now they need generalists too. The backers are being mobilized, mayors, winegrowers, cooperatives are invited at public meetings everywhere in the area, a webpage is under construction with absolutely beautiful pictures from the most pretty corners of Champagne.

One of the co-founders of the association behind, the Paysages du Champagne, is the capital of Champagne, Épernay. A city, that would like to see its rather unique Avenue de Champagne acknowledged by UNESCO. The characteristics of the avenue is its many impressive buildings. A mix of residences and industrial complexes, dating back from the 19th century, where the first champagne industries consolidated themselves economically. Champagne does not possess the chateau this or that of the Bordelais. But the avenue de Champagne of Épernays is a perfect match
s in its own way.

I guess, I just have to start writing another application for this next level of the UNESCO proces. The area of Champagne is so rich. Maybe the UNESCO-list could help the natives appreciate their fantastic heritage a bit more, than what often seems the case today. I hope so.

24 February, 2002

The young vines are ready

Posted by Picasa
The young vines were planted in April 2006. A piece of plastic protects them.

Today Alain pruned our young vines. Those that you normally do the very last, when the risk of frost is as small as it gets here.

Only around 10 of the 425 little vines planted have not made it. The 415 survivors are pruned thoroughly. The first years they are not supposed to produce anything. Instead they must concentrate their energy to build strength. We help them with this, when we remove all buds but one.

With the young plants finished, the pruning of this low plot, that Alain has managed now in 10 years, is completed. As soon as possible the branches must be attached to the wires. Then there is still the upper plot to go.

Half rows
The young guy who prunes most of our vines has already moved on to the miserable cordons in the upper plot. He still only finishes a row half before he moves on to the next. Until you look closer, you get the impression that he is much more efficient than he actually is. Six rows look like six rows rather than what they are, three rows. We have pruned five rows ourselves.

So there is still plenty of work in the 42 rows. On top there is a couple of days work to collect branches and burn them. And then finally the attaching, where you bind your branches to the fence.

Posted by Picasa
The lower plot with Meunier-grapes is finished.

We expect to have maximum a couple of weeks, before we will see the sap flowing from the bias cuts. It is called les pleurs, and is a sign that the growth of the vine has begun. You can prune and bind, even when the vine grows. But you are in much bigger danger to destroy buds because they have grown bigger and then break much easier.

Risk of early start
Everything is early this year. I have daffodils in my garden, the birds use their score of spring, and in Verzy, where the vineyard workers began to prune unusually early, the work is more advanced than normally at this time.

In the Côte des Blancs, where our vines grow, the plots look more like business as usual. Though we do pass quite a few unpruned hectares on low and almost flat land - very exposed for frost- and therefore very likely to be pruned as late as possible.

Alain foresees débourrement - when the buds begin to grow and unfold their first leaf - fast after the sap has risen. If so it will be very early indeed.

When checking the statistics of the last ten years, I see that the last year with big destructions due to frost - 2003 - also showed the earliest débourrement between 1996 and 2005. That year the first leaf came out on March 29th - later than what could be the case this year.

Posted by Picasa
The buds may develop very early this year.

The problem with a very early start is the risk of frost, always a heavy risk hanging over the vineyards of Champagne and other places in France as well. If it freezes when the buds are busy, the risk of having a smaller or bigger proportion of them burnt is big. Which may cost you grapes. If you have not pruned yet, when frost comes, you can try to prune your way out of problems, since it is unlikely that everything will be destroyed..

I suppose in the end the Dame Nature knows better, so I will stop the talking and just prune on instead.

Posted by Picasa
The young vines before they are pruned.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

Binding again

The temperatures have passed 10 degrees Celsius. We and our very efficient help have finished the pruning of a bit more than one hectare of Meunier-vines. I have begun the binding.

Yesterday Alain dealt with one row to check out his ability, as he puts it. I have to fight. As usual he works three times my speed. I still fight with the tool - the lieuse - that lies in my hand in an awkward way. As if my hands are equipped with 10 thumbs on my right hand. Or big toes even. It doesn't really work. But I still manage to bind almost 200 meters of vines in a day.

Alain spends the rest of saturday to change broken wires. About time, since our help - efficient as he is - is also supposed to bind. His girlfriend helps him out, and we can see, that she binds at any wire, should the good one be broken. For instance the wire we will lift in some months. Several rusty iron posts are to be changed as well.

Here and there I meet plants, where the pruning is not finished. For whatever reason. This is why you always sharpen and carry your scissors in the vineyards. At the same time I see, that the sap may have begun in the lower plot, but here I don't get even a hint of running sap from the fresh cuttings like Alain did last weekend in the low field.

The difference between these two plots is a few meters and a slightly degree of slope above and not belowe. The marginals of spring are really that delicate here. But there is still no doubt. The birds sing, it's a joy to listen to, and I have seen the first ladybird sunbathing in a golden stribe of sun outside the crack, where it spend all winter.

23 February, 2002

About the CIVC

I often refer to the organization CIVC in my blog. With good reasons, since this organization puts a finger, two or even ten in most games, where champagne is involved. Both on the practical and the political side.

The practical work
The CIVC has specialists on a number of fields, that are connected with champagne. The legal department is the one that fights, when the word champagne is used about anything but champagne.

The technical department collects information, analyses, concludes and publishes lots of different knowledge about the vines: About their cycle, about their diseases, about the maturing of the grapes, which decides when the CIVC whistles its go for the villages to start harvesting their grapes.

The organization also - in cooperation with some of the big champagne houses - work with improvements of the tasks performed in vineyards and cellars. A work that means a great deal for the continued development of the quality of champagne. Thus a development, that is directly connected with the work in vineyards and caves on a both daily and long term.

The political work
CIVC also works on a more superior and political platform.

Think about the captain, who steers the supertanker- the 30.000 hectares, the people who grows the vines, make the champagne, market and finally sell the bottles -in the right direction now, in 10 and even in 50 years.

A fast glimpse on the names of the members of the controling branches of the CIVC acknowledges this. You find so many top managers, that I feel quite free to guess, that big amounts of champagne politics agreed during the meetings.

Executive and advising members
The following persons are members of the bureau exécutif of the CIVC as on February 1st 2007:

For the independent winegrowers:

  • Pascal Férat,
  • Dominique Fleury,
  • Jean-Pierre Launois,
  • Patrick Le Brun,
  • Béatrice Richard,
  • Jean-Mary Tarlant.

    For the group that buys grapes and makes champagne with them (négociants manipulants):

  • Yves Bénard,
  • Frédéric Cuménal,
  • Yves Dumont,
  • Ghislain de Montgolfier,
  • Bruno Paillard,
  • Paul-François Vranken.

    The following persons are members of the advising branch (conseil):

    The first half is elected for the winegrowers, the second for the champagnehouses:

  • Hubert Beaufort,
  • Jacky Charpentier,
  • Pierre Cheval,
  • Francis Cossy,
  • Yves Couvreur,
  • Rémi Durand,
  • Pascal Férat,
  • Dominique Fleury,
  • Pascal L’Hoste,
  • Jean-Pierre Launois,
  • Patrick Le Brun,
  • Béatrice Richard,
  • Jean-Mary Tarlant

  • Anne-Charlotte Amory (Piper Heidsieck),
  • Yves Bénard (LVMH),
  • Cécile Bonnefond (Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin),
  • Frédéric Cuménal (LVMH),
  • Yves Dumont (Laurent-Perrier),
  • Carol Duval-Leroy (Duval-Leroy),
  • Michel Letter (Perrier-Jouët),
  • Ghislain de Montgolfier (Bollinger),
  • Patrice Noyelle (Pol Roger),
  • Bruno Paillard (Bruno Paillard),
  • François Roland Billecart (Billecart-Salmon),
  • Alain Thiénot (Alain Thiénot),
  • Paul-François Vranken (Vranken-Pommery Monopole).

    Representatives for the brokers:

  • Vincent Duntze,
  • Yves Fourmon,
  • Jean-Pierre Weydert.

    I note two men, that have made it very well. Paul-Francois Vranken and Bruno Paillard have build their own and now well-established champagnehouses from nothing in just 30 years. They of course are representated in both the executive and the advising branch. (Why of course? Because people with drive normally always pay attention to be elected for the right boards in the right and necessary organizations. In Denmark anyway).

    Yves Bénard, who recently was nominated as the president of the wine and eaux de vie department of the INAO, also - of course - has a seat in both branches. Another important person in this part of the country - the chairman of the independant winegrowers, Patrick Le Brun - is also represented at both tables.

    I also find it interesting that no female top managers have a seat in the executive branch even they are well represented in the champagne business in general and also in the advising branch of the CIVC. It may be a coincidence, but it rarely is when the subject is women and top positions.

    CIVC has sister organizations in Alsace, Bourgogne and Bordeaux.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

  • 22 February, 2002

    Sucess of the big houses

    The 2006 sales statistics for champagne made it almost all the way to the stars. The growth were at the remarkable percentage of 4,6. Remarkable, since the major part of the French wine industry is still in deep crisis.

    Here are some details about some of the locomotives:

  • LVMH: The lighthouse of French luxury business. No competitor - in the world that is - passes the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy revenue of 15 billion euros in 2006. It is also the absolute champion in Champagne, and there is a big distance to number two on the list, Boizel Chanoine Champagne (BCC).

    The wine and alcohol department of LVMH grew 11 percent in 2006 with a profit of no less than 30 percent. This is possible amongst other things because the champagne customers of the giant bought more expensive bubbles such as Dom Perignon and Ruinart. LVMH owns Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin and Moët & Chandon, og says, that Moët & Chandon has developped well in Central Europe and China.

  • Boizel Chanoine Champagne (BCC): After the purchase of Lanson International BCC made it to become the second biggest producer in Champagne. From seven to 21 million bottles and turnover of 311 million euros was achieved in 2006 (read more here (PDF-file). On top of the houses Boizel and Chanoine Frères, BCC also owns the De Venoge, Alexandre Bonnet and Philipponat, and since march 2006 Lanson and Burtin (Besserat de Bellefon) as well. The final numbers for 2006 will be available in April.

  • Laurent-Perrier: In the Far East Japan in 2006 bought enough champagne to make it to become the fourth biggest buyer on the global sales top ten of champagne. This has given Laurent-Perrier the wish to work more thoroughly with a market, that is reputed to be both sophisticated and demanding, and therefore rather perfect for champagne.

    Since in Champagne you can expect to see a development towards more fine and therefore also more expensive products in the years to come. To ensure and to help champagne to keep its position as leader of sparkling wines.

    Only Great Britain, Belgium and Italy bought more bottles than the 7,32 million of the Japanese, a growth of 37,73 percent. Customers, that Laurent-Perrier wants to treat even better, for a start by changing its distributor.

  • De Castellane: One of the ways, that big champagnehouses will use to be mentioned in media is to sponsor prices, preferably of the more exclusive kind. Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin has its price for business women, CIVC its champagne-ambassadors, Laurent-Perrier backs a gastronomical festival, and the house of de Castellane backs a Prix Saint-Valentin. And yes, it is a reward of the best love story of the year. Read about it here (PDF-file).

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

  • 21 February, 2002

    The juices are rising

    Posted by Picasa
    Posted by Picasa
    Solveig works with the cordons in Loisy-en-Brie, February 10th.

    The vines have begun their annual weapingr. Alain saw the first sap - les pleurs - flow from the very low of the cuts at the bottom of the vines last weekend in Loisy-en-Brie.

    This means, taht the vines here and there are finishing the lying dormant of the year. The juice within the plants changes state from the thickened frost protection of the winter to a more liquid juice, that feeds the plants, until new green leaves can take over the job.

    Meunier are even rather late. Chardonnay normally develops as the first of the vine varieties. Our vineyards are well exposed for the sun, so it's possible, that they - even for Meunier - are still early.

    We have finished the pruning. Ahead is to change destroyed wires, iron posts and to attach all the branches to the wires.

    Posted by Picasa
    Alain saws as much as he can from the parts of the stumps that don't carry interesting branches any more.

    20 February, 2002

    Misty morning

    Posted by Picasa
    The view from the farm of my mother-in-law in the village Soulières.

    These days and weeks the meetings of cold and warm air creates a lot of mist, that hangs over our heads almost until noon.

    The weekend has presented us with very pleasant and mild temperatures. I get cold very easily, so I still perform in the vineyards covered with all my winter equipment. But I must admit I felt warm this sunday morning. Alain worked with short sleeves under his jacket.

    Monday the weather reversed and once again took the tough line. Not at any time we have had more than five degrees Celsius in the yard - still completely in the shade - outside our house. The plateau Montagne de Reims behind us is not more than a couple of 100 meters tall but that is enough to keep the sunshine away from our yard more than half of the year.

    Posted by Picasa
    T-shirt under the jacket a morning in February with 12 degrees Celsius.

    Today - tuesday - the sun is back at full speed. The birds sing as if they were payed for it. In a couple of days the first daffodils will bloom in my garden. There is still plenty of possibilites to have the dangerous frost of spring, but I am more and more convinced, that winter is over for good.

    Which is not great when you have another half hectare of not-yet-pruned vines 50 kilometers away from this keyboard. Combined with babysitting that explains why I write instead of prune. On top of that my body is resting.

    Curing limbs and joints
    I guess it hardens your body if you have pruned from childhood. Somebody like me who is learning, can on top of being slow add a completely new kind of contact with my body.

    Constantly I hear from limbs or joints who want to tell me, that they find our daily life with baby much more gentle than this new idea to go and prune the vines. After a weekend like this the loin, arms, knees and various are sore and tired. What a desktop worker turned physical.

    My respect for people who have done this in 40 years, and since they were 16, is almost unlimited by now. Alains uncle around 70 years is one of them, and he still prunes.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    18 February, 2002

    Spring in February

    Posted by Picasa
    Scent of spring in Loisy-en-Brie.

    The weather seems to have settled for one direction only: Up and towards spring. Today we had incredible 10-12 degrees Celsius with a lot of sun even before noon.

    The scents have changed since last weekend. I smell spring now. I don't know excactly what it is. Maybe the sun, maybe the warmth created by the sunshine. A enhanced gentleness, another light.

    We have not yet seen the sap flowing - in French called les pleurs and the point-of-no-return after which the cycle of the vines really takes off - but the birds sing more, sing different, we hear new calls, other warbles. Today I even heard the humming of the bees for the first time this year.

    Month of March
    Normally we have all March to finish the pruning and then bind the branches to the thread in the fence. This year it has become harder and harder to believe that we can expect a lot of time, before spring will arrive for good.

    Posted by Picasa
    Alain burns removed branches in the homemade wheel-barrow.

    This saturday and sunday morning I have pruned as usual. Alain has been tidying up in the lower plot. Burnt branches left under the vines and pruned what has not been completely or thoroughly finished. Some weeks ago I wrote, that women prune more thoroughly than men. I may want to extend my point a bit. Another parameter seems reasonable, and that is whether the plot is yours (long-term rent counts too) or somebody elses. It seems to matter who will do the cleaning of for instance buds, that were not removed, later in the year.

    All years when somebody else has pruned his vines, Alain has always followed in their steps to check and even to prune more, if the worker has not worked as thoroughly as Alain likes it.

    One finished, one to go
    One of our vineyards is almost pruned to the end now. It is a young guy from Vertus, who has done most of it. In the other plot there is still most of it to finish. Five rows of 42 are pruned.

    To work in the weekend does not get you very far.

    Our two plots look like this after the weekend.

    Posted by Picasa
    Five rows of vines have been pruned in the upper plot.

    Posted by Picasa
    We still lack 37 rows that all look like this.

    Posted by Picasa
    The lower plot in Loisy-en-Brie is almost ready to bind by now.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    15 February, 2002

    Champagne-boss head of INAO

    Yves Bénard has been appointed to become the leader of the division of wines, eaux-de-vie and other alcoholic beverages at the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine). He has been a member of the comité since 1994.

    Monsieur Bénard is also chairman of the Union des Maisons de Champagne - the association of champagne houses that is. He is one of two chairmen of the CIVC (Comité Interprofesionnelle du Vin de Champagne), and he is in charge of the champagne- and wine division of the French luxury conglomerate, LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy).

    Earlier this year he said to Decanter, that he would want to let bureaucracy serve the producers rather than - as today - the very opposite. He has also said, that the producers must be more autonomous, and that you cannnot supervise everything from Paris.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    14 February, 2002

    Be my Valentine

    Posted by Picasa
    No minibottles in our cave. This a Taittinger rosé normal size.

    February 14th is Saint Valentine's Day. The day where the ladies must be given new lingerie, red red roses, chocolates shaped as hearts and pink champagne to sip from minibottles in the company of their true love.

    If you don't have a true love, you can still invite somebody with a card - or several maybe - where you invite for champagne to secure yourself from having to gulp down the bubbles all alone.

    Since this Big Day of True Lovers is also one of the peaks of the annual sales, some of the big champagnehouses have introduced unusually pink bubbles for the big day. Check Moët & Chandon. Be carefull with the red red roses though. According to Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet the prices are double what they should be, because the Dutch wholesalers have doubled their prices for the particular day.

    Let's skip the roses then, champagne we will drink, maybe even a pink one. We have guests for dinner, and it goes well with bird. Here is some more Valentine's stuff. Yours truly.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    12 February, 2002

    Capricious 2006

    Vines outside the village Thil, Massif Saint-Thierry. Everything is lost in a hailstorm.

    Le Vigneron Champenois places last year in the sign of heat.

    The magazine notes, that the capricious weather one time after the other shakes the work and development in the vineyards all through the season until the grapeharvest begins.

    Cold, storms and overcast days
    To grow grapes means to watch one's step between between the different whims of nature, that can hit you as particularly bad weather, disease or pests. From 2006 I especially remember the coldness of May, the storms of July and the constantly grey firmament of August.

    These are the short conclusions of the detailed presentations of the weather of 2006, as they appeared in Le Vigneron Champenois each month last year:

    • January: The winter has arrived with cold weather and regular frost, even it is not too bad, fog, glazed frost, rime. This time accompagnied by drought and sunshine in unusual amounts.

    • February: A cold month, dull and grey and very rainy. Finally the curve of drought breaks and with it the deficit of rain during the last six months. The winter has arrived to stay a while.

    • March: A remarquably wet month of March, but with a fast transition from typically wintry conditions to thorough-paced spring.

    • April: A generally mild April, very dry and a bit chaotic, when it comes to temperatures and sunshine... The arrival of spring is somewhat difficult.

    • May: A very rainy May with very little sunshine. Generally seen mild, but has more in common with autumn than with spring.

    • June: A very warm June, a lot of sunshine, relatively dry, and characterized by irregular precipitation, regularly with storms.

    • July: A month, that sets a new, absolute record of warmth. Several storms.

    • August: An exceptionally cold August, rainy and very grey... an enourmous contrast to follow the warm July.

    • September: In September, equally unusually warm and dry, and with conditions, that - apart from the amount of hours with sunshine - resemble those of July.

    • October: October is unusually mild and with the usual amount of rain.

    • November: November is unusually mild and with a suitable amount of rain. Status for the autumn is extremely mild, and seems to postpone the arrival of the winter.

    • December: December continues to be very mild, rather windy and with some fog. The cold of winter has still not arrived.
    I have translated the texts from the December-edition of Le Vigneron Champenois, a magazine for winegrowers in this area. They are based on local and regional observations and data, that has been taken down by people all over the area and collected by the technical department of the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne).

    The quality of the yield
    We ourselves harvested good grapes. There were enough, and in a generally good quality, with few attacks of rot. The coop, where we deliver our grapes, talk in their turn-of-the-year-edition about good grapes in sufficient amounts in 2006, where especially the quality of the red grapes were high.

    The reports on a superiour level - for the entire region that is - are positive, however not that detailed yet. At the moment the first fermentation and processes more or less linked with it are finished, and it is time to do the assemblage - your personal mix of still wines.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    11 February, 2002

    Meteorological fandango

    Posted by Picasa
    Black clouds and rain over Loisy-en-Brie.

    The only kind of weather we have not had this sunday afternoon is what we normally connect with February. Snow.

    It has been thorough-paced Danish weather of April. March it is here. One month before as always.

    We begin to be a bit uncomfortable with the fact that we are not more advanced with the pruning. If everything is one month early, it is rather interminable to imagine how we can manage to finish both pruning and binding the vines, before they grow again.

    Thunder, lightening, hail
    Today I had barely put my feet in the muddy grass between the vines, before curtains of a very deep grey suddenly covered the blue skies above me. The dark clouds came with rain and even a quick, little thunderstorm with both rumbling and lightning.

    Posted by Picasa
    We did see the sun in Loisy-en-Brie as well.

    No weather seemed to hang aroudn for long though. The wind at times worked so hard, that it reminded me of the windy days as I know them from the North Sea-coast of Denmark. Generally I don't miss the wind here, but when you are out in it, well dressed, the sound of storm and feeling of wind against your skin is not bad at all. But of course we have to do without the great smell of salt in the air here several hours drive from the sea.

    Out in the storm
    This life of a winegrower has taught me to appreciate the bold Danish saying, that there is no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothes. Anyway I am always 100 percent sure that I stand the rain better and longer than Alain, so I rarely risk to be more wet than I can live with.

    The storm ended with a load of hail, though of such a low calibre that I did not even feel them glance off my heavy plastic raincoat. This sunday I was sort of more worried about the hunting party that was shooting in the forest just above us. We hear them every weekend this time of year, but I have neither heard their dogs bark nor seen them with their flashy orange waistcoats before. I sit quietly in my dark as a hunter green outdoor wear and feel slightly worried.

    Posted by Picasa
    One leg of the rainbow ends in Loisy-en-Brie.

    When shine follows rain, the result is often rainbows. What every child knows, I remembered a bit late, so when I began to look for it, it had begun to fade. But a true rainbow it surely was - and I have not seen many in the vines - since we normally don't work under the rain.

    After pouring down all night, big amounts of rain was carried from the forest and down the slopes this morning. A great occasion for Alain to check that the ditch he ploughed about a year ago actually works.

    It leads the water all the way down till it arrives on the flat piece of land below the vineyards. So now our rows of vines are not eroded by the water like before. Good news of the day.

    Posted by Picasa
    The brooklet that carries the rain water from the forest. Normally there is no water here at all.

    So March weather we have, even we are still in the first part of February. We would expect minus 10 degrees Celsius rather than the 10 degrees we had today. Not much to do about it.

    But it gets a bit stressful to see how slow the pruning and the cleaning advances. If the vines - as everything else at the moment - is one month early, we hardly have more than a month to finish. With the speed of the guy hired to prune it is a bit hard to see the end of anything.

    I go slow myself. Today I pruned 54 plants in four hours, which is 4,4 minutes per plant. Actually not that bad... it's just that in this new plot I have now finished 3,5 rows, each 100 meters long. That means 36,5 to go, so I need quite a lot of winter weather to make it...

    Mother Earth or as we say in France la Dame Nature couldn't care less, it seems. Even the vines still rest, other crops are much more advanced than usual for this time of year.

    Posted by Picasa
    The field in front of the house of my mother-in-law is sowed with winter wheat that is very advanced for this time of year.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    10 February, 2002

    Cordon before and after

    For a change (;-D) we spent our Sunday to prune some more Meunier-vines. 200 meters finished, 75 meters for me and the rest for Alain.

    Some weeks ago I counted the number of cuts per plant to about 35. How many of last years branches we remove, I don't know. Between 75 and 80 percent maybe? Alain is not too sure either, but there's not a lot left when we are finished. Have a look:

    Posted by Picasa

    Posted by Picasa
    The same vine before and after my pruning. A piece of the old stem has also been sawed off. That's the big, brown surface, you see in the bottom of the picture. Loisy-en-Brie, February 10th.

    We have another 300 meters to go, to redo broken wires - I have met a few - and to change broken iron posts. Alain even has the ambition that he wants to place new plastic bells around the young vines to avoid, that rabbits eat the buds.

    The weather is fantastic each Sunday these days. 10 degrees Celsius, a cool but pleasant wind, the sun already warms so much, that I have used sun screen the last month with my heavy clothes. Still looks a bit like early spring, I search to see more signs, before I will begin to conclude, that this season could take off early like 2007.

    Honestly, I begin to long a bit for weekends, where we don't move the heavy gear weekend after weekend to go prune the vines. Still a bit early to start longinng, since we have quite a few weekends of attaching branches to wires and on top of that we still haven't burned the cut-off branches, that at the moment are placed under the vines in nicely cut pieces.

    09 February, 2002

    Gentle fiddling or fast forward

    Posted by Picasa
    The cordon gets its characteristic shape when most branches of last year are removed.

    All vines of Champagne are manually pruned each winter. It is a quiet work of patience, and therefore very suitable for persons, who likes this kind of task. And - according to a vineyard worker here - it is easy to recognize the work of a woman from the work of a man. The female touch is simply more thoroughly, more tidy than that of a man - sorry Alain, sorry Lars - but this is what she says.

    An entertaining observation. But when that is said, the objective is also to finish, and not - like myself - to think and think and think yet once again, before you decide where to use your secateur. If you work this way, you will only reach 100 meters further in one day, and this way the winter will be way to short for you to finish on time. But your work will be careful of course, how could it not be?

    There are many possibilities when you prune. Despite the strict rules for grapes destined for champagne, there are both big roads, small roads and dirt roads, that will all take you to Rome. But more experience makes it easier to make the good choice faster.

    The useful pruning
    There are several reasons why we spend so much time pruning.

  • The plant grows bigger every year. When you remove unnecessary branches, you prevent the vines from working themselves to death, having to feed more and more and longer and longer branches.

  • The grapes grow on one-year old branches. Of these you are allowed a certain number. You are not interested in many grapes, just a little bit more than the number you expect to sell at the harvest.

  • When you achieve the right balance between the hard, old tree and a suitable number of new shoots with leaves, you normally grow better grapes. This suitable balance depends on the micro conditions in the plot.

  • The tractors pass more easily trough tidy rows, which makes them break less branches.

    Posted by Picasa
    This plant has several cordons, only one will survive the pruning.

    We grow Meunier-vines pruned in the Vallée de la Marne-style in one plot. In the other plot - the one with the miserable cordons - there is still a lot of work left.

    Several models
    A vine kan be pruned in several different ways, that depend on parameters like tradition, the weather and what is decided in the AOC-rules.

    In Champagne the vines are pruned rather low and planted dense. In other areas with vines, the vines are taller, the rows planted with a bigger distance between them and so on. The systems are adjusted to the climatic and geological conditions in your area and - very locally - in your plot.

    The most common pruning-systems in Champagne are the Chablis and the Cordon. We use the latter in one plot and the Vallée de la Marne in another, the Vallée de la Marne resembles a faster way of doing a Cordon.

    Posted by Picasa
    This version of Chablis has three arms, each of far ends of the branches will grow grapes.
    Posted by Picasa
    Cordon, where the tiny branches on the long and old arm (cordon) and the far end will grow grapes.

    At times I must pinch my own arm once or even twice to understand that pruning of champagne vines is now one of my weekly tasks during a day in say January or February.

    It is only three years ago, that I walked with my stroller on dirt roads between the vines wondering what all these people in dark green coats were doing outside all day long. I am one of them now.

    The chariot used by many
    Alain has always bent over his vines, when he prunes. My bag does not put up with such a treatment. I use the little chariot, that enables me to sit down, when I prune. This slows down my speed, but it enables me to work with other things when I don't prune, so it is practical after all. Instead, my body is just tired, but tired in the quite pleasant way you reach after physical work outside.

    Thus I use the chariot, and so does many others. If you see a dirty car in Verzy around lunchtime, you have an almost 100 percent certitude to see one of these chariots in the boot. There is even a guy who travels with it on his lap when he drives back and forth between his house and vines on a small moped.

    Posted by Picasa
    I work myself upwards on my little chariot.

    The pruning is finished just about at the same time as winter. In France officially at vernal equinox March 21st. The few surviving branches will be attached to the lowest thread of the wires at a height of just 50 or 60 centimetres with little pieces of wires surrounded by raffia.

    Now, which sex has more bindings? My mouth is shut... It is no competition after all.

    After the attachment of the branches the active cycle of the vines is not far.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.